Despite the Sixers’ recent slide to .500, there were plenty of positive takeaways from the team’s injury-hampered stretch of basketball prior to James Harden’s return. One of them was Paul Reed‘s emergence, especially in the games Joel Embiid missed. Reed showcased substantial improvement on the offensive end, but his impact will always be rooted in defense.
Very few big men can muck up the game like Reed. He’s a bundle of chaos, but now he’s learning how to better control that chaos. He’s channelling his energy into the proper defensive channels rather than simply flying around with reckless abandon.
The results of late have been stellar. Reed looks like the center of the future behind Embiid — maybe even a player the Sixers need to play with Embiid for stretches. And the stats back up the eye test. According to BBall Index, who put together a graph detailing the NBA’s best “defensive playmakers,” Paul Reed is right near the top of the list.
Paul Reed looks like an elite defender for the Sixers
While he still has room to improve as a decision-maker, Reed looks like an elite defensive talent. His nose for the ball and relentless hustle has always been effective, but Reed is slowly doing away with the constant foul trouble and mind-numbing mistakes. He’s making more calculated gambles and providing his trademark hustle without compromising the integrity of the team’s defensive scheme at large.
The graph from Bball Index shows that Reed ranks near the top of the NBA in Passing Lane Defense (rate of deflections + interceptions) and Pickpocket Rating (on-ball steal rate). Reed is a menace off the ball, exploding into passing lanes and creeping out of the shadows to eliminate passing lanes with his 7-foot-2 wingspan. But he’s also great on the ball, providing the Sixers with perimeter switchability and the physicality needed to stonewall bigger players in the paint. There just aren’t many bigs with active hands like Reed.
The cherry on top for Sixers fans, of course, is the player located directly next to Reed (practically underneath him) on the graph: De’Anthony Melton. The Sixers might just have the two best defensive playmakers in the sport, along with Matisse Thybulle who ranks quite favorably as well.
As he continues to learn his role offensively, it will be harder for Doc Rivers not to play Reed. He’s straight-up better than Montrezl Harrell and could be playing his way into a fairly lucrative second contract next summer.